Many methods have been proposed for avoiding obstacles in robotic systems. However, a robotic system that moves without colliding with obstacles and people, while still being mentally safe to the persons nearby, has not yet been realized. In this paper, we describe the development of a method for a mobile robot to avoid a pedestrian approaching from the front and to pass him/her by while preserving the “public distance” of personal space. We assume a robot that moves along a prerecorded path. When the robot detects a pedestrian using a laser range finder (LRF), it calculates the trajectory to avoid the pedestrian considering their personal space, passes by the pedestrian, and returns to the original trajectory. We introduce a virtual target to control the robot moving along the path, such that it can use the same control strategy as for human-following behavior. We carry out experiments to evaluate the method along three routes, in which the robot functioned without problems. The distance between the robot and the pedestrian was 9.3 m, on average, when the robot started to use avoiding behavior, which is large enough to keep a public distance from a pedestrian. When the robot passed by the pedestrian, the minimum distance between them was 1.19 m, which was large enough for passing safely.
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